These victories are only possible by God’s grace and because of the financial partnership with Pennsylvania Family Institute (PFI) by individuals and families across the Commonwealth. To partner financially with PFI heading into the new year, please go to pafamily.org/donate or call 717-545-0600.
1. Mechanicsburg Area School District students can now share Bibles with classmates.
The Independence Law Center obtained a permanent injunction in Federal Court to protect the right of Mechanicsburg students who were prohibited from sharing Bibles with their classmates during non-instructional time. The litigation also forced the removal of a policy that unconstitutionally banned other religious speech. “This is truly a big win. ” – Michael Geer, PFI President
2. PA House wins right to continue opening legislative sessions in prayer to God.
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives invites guests chaplains to offer prayer before they begin the day’s legislative session. Because the time was designated for prayer, the policy excluded those who do not pray. A group of atheists and other nontheists sued. The PA House, under the leadership of Mike Turzai, and with support from Independence Law Center, courageously defended the policy all the way to victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Independence Law Center, the legal arm of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, in conjunction with the Alliance Defending Freedom, filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of four of Pennsylvania’s U.S. Congressmen who took a stand to defend prayer: Mike Kelly, Scott Perry, Lloyd Smucker and Glenn Thompson. That brief was cited by the Third Circuit to establish the longstanding purpose of these prayers — that “legislative prayers seek ‘divine guidance’ in lawmaking.” Read more.
3. PA County wins after being sued for using government seal with a cross.
Independence Law Center filed a friend-of-the-court brief at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on behalf of numerous states in support of Lehigh County’s ability to retain the cross in the county seal. The Court sided with the County, allowing it to keep the cross on its seal.
“Government should not be forced to abandon our religious traditions.” – Randall Wenger, PFI Chief Counsel
4. Victory for children with Down syndrome despite Gov. Wolf’s veto.
“For the first time, after over two years of families advocating and sharing their stories, the General Assembly – with a bipartisan vote in both the State Senate and State House of Representatives – voted to pass the Down Syndrome Protection Act. Pennsylvanians agree – we should stop targeting people with Down syndrome in the womb for abortion. They have a right to be born and their life is a life worth living. Our State Senate and State House members agree.” – Michael Geer, PFI President
PFI was able to help share the story of many involved to help inform people like our elected officials to better understand why this legislation was so important: Karen Gaffney, Joni Eareckson Tada, Mikayla Holmgren, Jessica Capitani, Johnny, Tamara
A Life Worth Living Photo Series: pafamily.org/alifeworthliving
5. Victory for Life: Abortionist responsible for 40,000 abortions closes clinic, marks nine closings since 2012.
State inspections were only mandated into law by the passage of new abortion clinic regulations in 2011, a major initiative by Pennsylvania Family Institute after the horrors of Kermit Gosnell’s clinic were revealed. After nearly a year’s battle in the legislature, the common-sense regulations finally passed into law, classifying abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical centers (treating any place that performs abortions like any other surgical facility).
Five abortion clinics closed as a direct result of this new legislation when it went into effect in 2012. Another clinic in Harrisburg, Hillcrest Women’s Medical Center, was forced to shut down in 2017 after failing numerous health inspections. Read more.
6. Victory for Christian Scouting troop denied access to National Guard Base because of religious affiliation.
Independence Law Center (ILC) secured a victory for a Trail Life, USA troop who was prohibited from touring a National Guard base because of their religious affiliation. “Fort Indiantown Gap’s denial of access to the base facilities, which are open to other civic, fraternal, and youth organizations and for youth activities, constitutes viewpoint discrimination. Fort Indiantown Gap has opened up facilities to other groups, and it must equally open up those facilities to religious groups as well. Applying the Garrison Commander guidance to deny Trail Life Troop equal treatment is discriminatory and unconstitutional.” ILC teamed up with First Liberty so that Trail Life troops around the country would also benefit from this victory. Read more.
7. Parents defend daughter’s right to share John 3:16 on Valentine’s Day cards.
A school teacher and principal refused to allow a first-grader to share valentines in school because it contained a Bible verse. Thankfully, in this case, the mother reached out to the Independence Law Center who contacted the school on her behalf with a written letter explaining the violation that occurred against this first-grader’s right to free speech. The district subsequently agreed that this student should have been allowed to distribute his Valentines with John 3:16 on them. Read more.
8. Victories for protecting churches and believers’ right to assemble.
Local officials attempt to regulate home Bible study: Sewickley Heights sent a cease and desist letter demanding that a family stop holding Bible studies in their home unless they first went through the lengthy process of obtaining a conditional use permit. The Zoning Hearing Board agreed with the Independence Law Center and rejected the Borough’s attempt to regulate the Bible studies.
Home church defends right to assemble: A family in Strasburg, PA who uses their residence on Sundays for a home church received a letter from a borough zoning office attempting to prohibit their gatherings. Attorneys with the Independence Law Center got involved and the borough rescinded its cease and desist order. Now, the church can continue its gatherings.
9. Harmful Allegheny County counseling ban ordinance proposal tabled.
PFI worked with members of the council and psychologists to help stop a dangerous counseling ban ordinance. The ordinance sought to strip minors, and their parents, of the ability to voluntarily choose to get counseling to help them abstain from acting on unwanted desires, or to help them reduce unwanted same-sex attraction or feelings of being the opposite sex.
Individuals deserve the professional help they desire with those goals on an equal basis with any other person who seeks counseling to cope with or reduce unwanted feelings. The counseling ban was an attempt through law to steer children exclusively towards cross-sex hormone injections and likely surgical amputation of healthy sex organs. This ordinance would have contributed to the growing number of people who face a lifetime of problems and who deeply regret those actions.
10. Pro-Life sidewalk counselors earn court victory.
Advocates for life in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg filed lawsuits against those cities for their “buffer zone” ordinances in relation to sidewalk counseling outside of abortion clinics. “In both cases, the 3rd Circuit came to a reasonable conclusion. The judges stated that sidewalk counseling is not ‘congregating, patrolling, picketing, or demonstrating’; therefore, the local laws do not prevent citizens from entering the ‘buffer zones’ to counsel women. The Court reasoned that ‘approaching someone individually to engage in one-on-one conversation’ is not congregating, picketing, etc. As a result, the plaintiffs can counsel women near the entries and exits of abortion clinics.” – Curtis Schube, PFI Legal Counsel.
The Independence Law Center filed an amicus brief in the Harrisburg case on behalf of Life Legal Defense Foundation, a nonprofit that works to assist and support those who advocate in defense of life.
Pennsylvania Family Institute was founded in 1989 and has become one of the leading state-based pro-life, pro-family organizations in the nation. PFI is supported entirely by the private contributions of concerned citizens, families, businesses and churches. To partner financially with PFI by making a tax-deductible donation, please go to pafamily.org/donate or call 717-545-0600.